Scientist Kizzmekia Corbett Leads The Team At NIH For COVID-19 Vaccine Development

Isheka N. Harrison
Written by Isheka N. Harrison
Kizzmekia Corbett
Dr. Kizzmekia Corbett, 34, is the Black scientist leading the National Institutes of Health’s (NIH) development of a COVID-19 coronavirus vaccine. In this Tuesday, March 3, 2020 file photo, Dr. Kizzmekia Corbett, left, senior research fellow and scientific lead for coronavirus vaccines and immunopathogenesis team in the Viral Pathogenesis Laboratory, talks with President Donald Trump as he tours the Viral Pathogenesis Laboratory at the National Institutes of Health in Bethesda, Md. Dozens of research groups around the world are racing to create a vaccine as COVID-19 cases continue to grow. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

Dr. Kizzmekia Corbett is a name you should remember. The 34-year-old scientist is the Black woman leading the National Institutes of Health’s (NIH) development of a COVID-19 coronavirus vaccine, according to NBC News.

Corbett was among the public health experts U.S. President Donald Trump met with on March 3 – and was literally in the double minority of predominately white men, the report said.

She and her team have worked diligently to make “the fastest progress ever toward a possible vaccine for a novel pathogen,” NBC wrote. At the time, the COVID-19 vaccine was set to enter first-stage trials, a feat they’ve accomplished is just about two months.

NIH director Dr. Francis Collins described Corbett as “wonderfully talented young scientist in our midst.” It’s a role Corbett doesn’t take lightly, particularly considering the dire need for a vaccine.

“There was, and is, already a fair amount of pressure,” Corbett said. “A lot of people are banking on us or feel that we have a product that could, at least, be part of the answer this world needs. And, well, whew, just saying that out loud is not easy.”

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But Scripps Research professor Andrew Ward thinks Corbett is up to the task. He said she is far from average.

“There’s pressure, constant pressure, in a situation like this where the speed at which we’ve gone to clinical trials is almost unprecedented,” Ward told NBC. “And I think there’s a lot of realism on the team that this is a shot, maybe not even our best shot, but a good shot, given the pressing need. And Kizzy, to me, really epitomizes that. She’s putting in long, long hours, doing critical, potentially world-altering work, at what is naturally a pretty high-pressure time in her career, in this incredibly focused way.”

Described by those who know and work with her as “Outstanding,” “Hard-working” and “brilliant,” Corbett is also known to be thoughtful and personable.

If successful, Corbett and her team’s vaccine could be ready for use by doctors by 2021. Using Jesus, laughter and critical thinking as her guide, Corbett is committed to succeeding.

“”At some point, you have to decide how much to care,” Corbett told NBC News. “You understand that your work will have to be mighty so that it can do your speaking.”